Ukraine retakes control of its Black Sea coastline, grain exports resume via a “temporary shipping corridor”

Ukraine retakes control of its Black Sea coastline, grain exports resume via a “temporary shipping corridor”
About two dozen small grain ships have managed to sail from Ukraine's Black Sea coast to the international markets. / bne IntelliNews
By Ben Aris in Berlin October 25, 2023

Ukraine has largely retaken control of its Black Sea coastline and is able to export grain via the Danube after pushing Russia’s Black Sea fleet back thanks to the missile strike threat.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that the Russian Black Sea Fleet is no longer capable of resistance in the western Black Sea and is “gradually fleeing from Crimea.”

 “This is a historic achievement. Recently, the Russian leader was forced to announce the creation of a new Black Sea Fleet base on the occupied territory of Georgia. But we will get them everywhere,” Zelenskiy said on October 24, speaking via video link at the parliamentary summit of the Crimea Platform as cited by Interfax Ukraine.

According to him, “Ukraine was able to return the Black Sea to the role of a security artery on which global food stability depends.”

Ukraine is now successfully exporting its products by sea through a “temporary sea corridor” without the need for guarantees from Russia, the government said this week. In the last month Ukraine has used longer range missiles supplied by the US to attack Russia’s Black Sea fleet in its home ports of the Crimea, forcing Russia to withdraw its navy to a safe distance as the battle for the Black Sea rages.

The Centre for Strategic Communications has reported that negotiations on Moscow's return to the Black Sea Grain Initiative that was suspended on July 17 are now obsolete due to the effective operation of the humanitarian sea corridor without Russian involvement, UBN reports.

In the last few weeks dozens of grain ships have managed to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports carrying relatively small cargoes of grain, hugging the coast until they reach Romanian waters and sail on to the international markets. The Centre for Strategic Communications credits the Defence Forces of Ukraine for pushing the Russian fleet out of the north-western Black Sea, enabling the corridor to function.

Kyiv is urging its international partners to enhance shipping capacity in the region by organising patrols. Since September 16, 2023, the Ukrainian grain corridor has seen the arrival of at least 42 ships at its ports, with at least 23 ships departing.

However, Ukraine is still facing restrictions in exporting its agricultural products, as there are insufficient export channels. The temporary sea corridor has allowed only 700,000 tonnes of grain to pass through Ukrainian seaports, whereas at this time of year pre-war Ukraine used to export millions of tonnes of grain each month. The full volume of grain exports cannot resume unless Ukraine can liberate the seas around its deep water port at Odesa, say the authorities.

Minister of Agricultural Policy Mykola Solsky highlighted that the majority of agricultural products are currently exported through the Danube ports, with nearly 2.3mn tonnes passing through this route in September and 2.4mn tonnes in August. Nevertheless, this falls short of the approximately 6mn tonnes per month needed to sustain the agricultural sector as a critical part of the economy.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy revealed that around 50 vessels have arrived at Ukrainian ports for loading since the initiation of the temporary corridor, with more scheduled to arrive. Despite these efforts, grain exports decreased by about a third (29.7%) as of the end of September, amounting to 8.3mn tonnes in the new season.

Despite the challenges, there is optimism for Ukraine's agricultural exports. The commercial director of Spike Brokers brokerage company, Oleksandr Solovei, forecasts that the country could export up to 20mn tonnes of agricultural products by the end of the year – still more than half of pre-war volumes.

He emphasised the need for Ukrainian agricultural producers to plan sales for more extended periods, with 60-70% of exports now heading to or transiting through the European Union, UBN reports.


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